Miscellaneous post holiday links

November 26, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Paul Peterson interviews Justice Clint Bolick on the 2018 elections and school choice,Brett Kavanaugh and other topics. Quick note on the AZ Prop 305 vote: we have something called Voter Protection in Arizona, which means that the legislature has a severely limited ability to alter something passed at the ballot. As Clint explained, it was the ESA eligibility expansion rather than the program that was on the ballot in November. Because the expansion contained a statewide cap (30k students statewide) many pro-choice groups chose not to engage in support of the expansion as it would have voter protected a cap that would have been practically impossible to alter. We had wildly conflicting polls up until the end but Arizona voters decisively chose not to expand eligibility, which means that the program continues with the current eligibility pool (Students with Disabilities, foster care children, children attending D/F rated public schools, military dependents and orphans and siblings of eligible students) and (given this result) no participation cap starting in 2019, but with the more limited eligibilty pool described earlier. Efforts now should focus on improving the administration of the program.

Yours truly teamed up with David Lujan, former state lawmakers and Director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress in support of ASU Prep charter school., a high performing charter in downtown Phoenix threatened by a demand for a large increase in rent from the Phoenix Elementary School District. In combination the district and charter schools of the area scored at the 99th percentile of academic growth, which as both righties and lefties like Mr. Lujan and I both agree is something well worth preserving, so hopefully the grownups work something out.

Lots of interesting discussion going on about standardized testing. I remain in favor of lighter footprint testing but man oh man we’d better be coming up with ways to lower the perceived costs and increase the perceived benefits.

 

 


Will the Ed Reform Band Continue to March into the Alley?

June 14, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Robert Pondiscio’s now famous piece on ed reform’s leftward drift brought to mind the above scene from the masterpiece of American juvenile cinema Animal House. It’s hardly impossible to imagine ed reform going off course as, well, it happened before and in the recent past. Tom Loveless for instance argues that the entire Common Core effort has been worth less than a single NAEP point (on a 500 point scale) and that this gain is already reflected in the 2015 exams. I would not bet my left foot that Tom is absolutely correct about that, in fact I hope he’s wrong and the entire effort has some sort of delayed reaction since it is a sunk cost. I have yet to see anyone attempt to muster a credible refutation, and Tom’s analysis finds support from Hanushek’s work as well.  The could be mistaken, but calling the question as of now makes it look like:

Well yes maybe that has not worked out as well as hoped, but the teacher evaluation systems pushed by Race to the Top are going to close the achievement gap by…oh wait watch out….gahhhgh my trombone!!!!!!

Not all such diversions are of recent vintage. Some are more of a persistent folly sort of phenomenon. For instance, it is fairly clear that the school voucher movement never would have launched in Milwaukee without a strange bedfellows coalition of liberals and conservatives. This was terribly exciting at first, but with the benefit of hindsight…

It now seems painfully obvious that the means testing of private choice programs has served to politically marginalize private choice vis-a-vis charter schools, district schools, magnet schools, digital learning and/or **fill in the blank here** because almost nothing else in K-12 education funding has adopted the view that actively discriminating against the children of the people who pay the highest rates of tax constitutes an inspired political strategy.

This is not at all to say that equity issues are anything less than vitally important or that we should not engage in an ongoing and thoughtful discussion about how best to reflect them in a system of private choice. The means testing fetish however has persisted so long that some very prominent charter school supporters for instance failed to recognize the rich irony of their criticism of the Nevada ESA program for being universal in nature when in fact every charter school law also involves universal eligibility by income.  Come to think of it, I don’t know of many charter school laws that give additional state dollars to low-income kids, but the NVESA does provide additional state funds to low-income students….

Anyhoo, means testing for thee, but not for me won’t do- wake me up when our friends on the left means test district or charter schools. Otherwise the worthy conversation lies in settling upon the level of additional resources should be provided to disadvantaged children. All of which leads to Paul Peterson’s great valedictory piece as Editor in Chief of Education Next making the case that the regulatory approach to school reform led us down a blind alley reached its ceiling. Peterson calls on reformers to double down on parental choice as an improvement strategy. This approach, while promising, requires a level of modesty notably lacking from today’s would be technocrats. I’m happy to pass the ed reform baton to those who can snatch this particular pebble, as my next career creating Rhino Record compilation cds of Dean Martin and punk rock classics awaits (Martinis in the Mosh Pit, Volume 7!!!) and would be even more fun than anything in ed reform, other than jayblogging.

Ooops, day dreaming again, so getting back on track the above sort of issues deserve deliberation and debate in my view. I could be in the grips of an enormous folly that is invisible to me, just as my friends in the charter school movement seem oblivious to their means testing double standard. I’ve been wrong before, and I will be wrong again so have at it if you disagree. I’d rather debate these sort of issues than endure any further virtue signalling in the form of therapy sessions where Ivy League ed reformers work out their guilt from lacking an urban Horatio Alger story in public.  Such burdens are best born in private with a determined stoicism, terrible though they may be, as they seem lacking in utility.

 

 

 


Liberty and Justice for All

June 1, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Kingsland writes a hilarious post on five theories of change in K-12 philanthropy.  Over on the Ed Next podcast, Paul Peterson explains why he believes top-down command and control improvement strategies have jumped the shark and calls for a renewed focus on choice as an improvement strategy.

 


Cool Honesty Gap Graphics on Truth in Advertising in State Testing

January 28, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So yesterday the Godfather of the School Choice movement presented evidence that nuked an oft-repeated claim regarding the great dummy down of American testing. Today the folks at Honesty Gap mop up the poor irradiated wretches to put them out of their misery with some cool graphics showing the increased alignment between state tests and NAEP like:

and…

…and

Now for people like me who support Arizona developing a set of standards unique to Arizona and replacing the current CC standards and possibly test so long as they are as good or better, the presence of Oklahoma on that last chart is a problem. For anti-CC crusaders, it’s an even a larger problem, unless of course you are just shameless is your support for tests that a chimp could sometimes pass blindfolded. Yes Tex I am looking at you. A constructive vote of no-confidence remains a respectable path to leaving CC in the rear view mirror, so I hope Oklahoma will pull it off in plenty of time for the 2017 NAEP.


So about those “Great Dummy Down” Claims…

January 27, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Let me take a moment to reiterate that in my home state I’m very comfortable with Governor Ducey’s goal to create a set of high academic standards unique to Arizona. I see little value in “common” standards (NAEP scratches my cross-state comparison itch) but I hate state tests that the Wall Street stock picking chicken could pass on his way to receiving a false state endorsement of “proficiency” with the burning hatred of a thousand suns. I have no idea where this will ultimately wind up and I can easily imagine better strategies than those adopted, etc.

Having said that, let’s just say that the “great dummy down” claim just got put on the shelf next to bus-based retinal scan stories and United Nations conspiracy theories:


Multiple States Ditch My Little Pony Coloring Book Quality Academic Exams

March 12, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

New article on the quality of state tests vis a vis NAEP by Paul Peterson and Matthew Akerman at Education Next. The authors demonstrate a trend towards closer alignment in proficiency rates between state exams and NAEP during the Common Core era, with 20 states narrowing the gap. Several states, including at least Arizona and Florida, will debut new tests in a few weeks.

Of special interest to me in the above chart is the overall averages by year trends. Notice Tennessee’s long string of F grades, followed by A grades in 2011 and 2013. Was it a coincidence that Tennessee saw more NAEP progress than any other state between 2011 and 2013? Perhaps so, perhaps not.

Notice also however Washington D.C., which had even larger aggregate NAEP gains than Tennessee between 2011 and 2013 (and a long history of NAEP progress before 2013). Nothing but C grades thus far, but charter schools have been taking the place over and outscoring the (improving) district. Apparently there is more than one path up the mountain.

Can we attribute the general increase in the rigor of state tests to Common Core? The authors note in a fashion as dry as a martini:

CCSS may be driving these changes. One indication that this may be the case is that the six states that are not implementing CCSS for reading or math all continue to set low proficiency standards. Their grades: Virginia, C+; Nebraska, C; Indiana, C-; Texas, C-; Alaska, D+; and Oklahoma, D.

Regardless of where you stand on the Common Core project, and we’ve beat the horse into hamburger on it here, state tests with the approximate rigor of a My Little Pony coloring book- look Mommy I colored this unicorn blue-I’m PROFICIENT!!!– deserve no one’s support.  

In other words, if you are a Tennessee opponent of Common Core you owe everyone a realistic plan that keeps you at an A on this chart. If you want to go back to the old system, you need to explain why you want to spend tax dollars on a state sponsored weapon of mass deception (years of tests that proclaimed you proficient when you signed your name).

This is the space that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey staked out in his campaign- standards that are high but not common. It will be no small task to pull this off in practice, but it is the best path for an opponent of the Common Core project to follow.

 

 

 

 

 


Paul Peterson created Education Policy MOOC

August 5, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

MOOC there it is!  How long until Paul’s stodgy students get hip with MOOCs?


Responding to the President on Choice Media

February 24, 2014

ResponseToObamaVoucher

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Recently, the president claimed that “every study” shows voucher programs aren’t highly effective. Choice Media has posted a short clip in which a legend in the field (Paul Peterson), the leader of voucher research conducted by the president’s own department of education (Pat Wolf), and a modest chorus in the background (yours truly) contest the president’s claim.


Read ‘Em and Weep Edureactionaries

November 14, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

There is a great deal of interesting material in the Hanushek, Peterson and Woessmann study on international/American state academic achievement. Below however is the chart from the Ed Next version that I found most interesting:

Focusing on the 4th Grade Mathematics exam between 1992 and 2009, the authors found that increasing spending does not have a strong relationship with improved student learning. Par for the course.

Take a close look at the top of the chart however in terms of the states making large gains and how much additional revenue per pupil they spent to get them.

The states showing the top gains (in order) are Maryland, Florida, Delaware and Massachusetts. MD, FL and DE essentially tie with MA slightly behind.

Notice however that the inflation adjusted spending per pupil increase in Florida between 1992 and 2009 was $1,000. In Delaware it was $3,000. Maryland looks near the midpoint between $4,000 and $5,000 so lets roughly call it $4,500. Massachusetts looks to be $5,000.

So Florida managed first class gains with a much smaller increase in funding. If I were to go and look up the numbers, we would find that Florida’s smaller increase also came from a smaller base- MD, DE and MA were all likely to have been outspending Florida in 1992 and then really outspending them in 2009.

It is also worth noting that Florida faces considerably greater demographic challenges than MD, DE or MA- far more free and reduced lunch eligible children, more ELL kids, and to the extent you want to factor race/ethnicity into the equation it is a far more diverse state with a majority-minority student population.

So conflict-adverse state policymakers with extra billions of dollars burning a hole in their pocket and very wealthy and pale complected students should study MD, DE and MA for clues on how to improve their student outcomes.

If however you live in a state with average or above student diversity, real budgetary constraints on the amount you can spend on K-12 and strong competing demands for any additional revenue you are likely to scrape up, you should study Florida. In fact you should study Florida regardless unless you lack the guts for a good tussel.

P.S. Notice that NY and WY both had gigantic spending increases (an inflation adjusted $6k per student) only to achieve average and below-average gains respectively. At least WY is just wasting money they are pumping out of the ground. NY seems intent to drive their citizens out of state. Taxpayers and especially students are the losers in both cases.


Gloom and Gloomier

February 1, 2011

The editors at Education Next have two essays on the state of education reform that remind me of Woody Allen’s never-delivered university commencement speech:

More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

In one essay, Paul Peterson, Marci Kanstoroom, and Chester Finn reject my rosy assessment of progress in the war of ideas about education reform, saying “It’s way, way too early to declare victory. Atop the cliffs and bastions that reformers are attacking, the opposition has plenty of weapons with which to hold its territory…. It’s dangerous to think a battle is over when it has just begun.”

In the other essay, Frederick Hess, Martin West, and Michael Petrilli go even further in their gloom, arguing not only that the war has hardly begun, but that the reform warriors are really the enemy:

First, reform “support” resides with a mostly uninformed, unengaged public—one that isn’t especially sold on their ideas and that, in any event, is often outmatched by well-organized, well-funded, and motivated special interests. And second, and more unfortunately, many reformers are eagerly overreaching the evidence and touting simplistic, slipshod proposals that are likely to end in spectacular failures. In short, some forces of reform are busy marching into the sea and turning notable victories into Pyrrhic ones. To quote that wizened observer of politics and policy, Pogo: We’ve met the enemy, and he is us.

That’s funny.  I thought the enemy was a monopolistic, bureaucratized 19th century school system propped up by teacher unions and their allies who place the interests of adults over the needs of children.  I guess I was wrong in not understanding that it is really the opponents of that system who are the problem.

In truth, I don’t really disagree with much of what either essay has to say.  It is all just a matter of emphasis and framing. In my declaration of victory I was careful to acknowledge that the war over policy has barely begun and reformers have a long and difficult road ahead:

We won!  At least we’ve won the war of ideas.  Our ideas for school reform are now the ones that elites and politicians are considering and they have soundly rejected the old ideas of more money, more money, and more money.

Now that I’ve said that, I have to acknowledge that winning the war of ideas is nowhere close to winning the policy war.  As I’ve written before, the teacher unions are becoming like the tobacco industry.  No one accepts their primary claims anymore, but that doesn’t mean they don’t continue to be powerful and that people don’t continue to smoke.  The battle is turning into a struggle over the correct design and implementation of the reform ideas that are now commonly accepted.  And the unions have shown that they are extremely good at blocking, diluting, or co-opting the correct design and implementation of reforms.

Rick Hess correctly demonstrated how important design and implementation are almost two decades ago in his books, Spinning Wheels and Revolution at the Margins.   And it is always useful for him and others to remind reformers of the dangers that lurk in those union-infested waters.  But for a moment can’t we just bask in the glow of our intellectual victory — even if our allies are a new crop of naive reformers?

Yes, there is a danger in thinking that the policy war is over when it has barely begun.  And yes, there is a danger in over-promising and over-simplifying reform ideas.  But there is also a danger in reform burn-out.  The struggle over school reform has been going on for decades and will almost certainly take several decades more.  Donors have grown frustrated and advocates have jumped to ill-conceived quick fixes that would set the cause of reform back significantly, like adopting national standards and assessments.  If we don’t periodically note our policy progress and intellectual victories, we will have great difficulty sustaining the reform movement.

My view does not really differ substantially from the two essays in Education Next except that they see a greater danger in over-confidence and I see a greater danger in burnout.  And I don’t mind being used as the straw man for their arguments.  The Straw Man had a brain.